Why Affirmative Action Arguments Totally Miss the Mark

The implementation of affirmative action has proven to provide temporary “solutions” to a largely flawed and unfair academic landscape, as recent cases about affirmative action show. What few fail to realize about college admission is how much one’s access to particular resources greatly impacts the way one prepares, applies and performs in a university setting. Nonetheless, opponents of affirmative action argue that those lacking extensive extracurricular activities, which most often are students from a minority background, are admitted over those with a solid resume. Thus, there is little discussion about how some students have access to these activities and other students are unable to put such activities on their resume.  

As a strong supporter of affirmative action on the college level, especially at selective universities, I still realize that affirmative action will not fix deeply entrenched problems, but rather open up doors which have been slammed in the faces of students for years.

Opponents of affirmative action have always used Black and Hispanic students who may obtain lower SAT scores than their white counterparts as a reason why affirmative action is unfair. However, such arguments n conveniently fail to mention the racist and classist factors that can also be taken into account for admissions decisions. Some schools, for example, take into account family legacy and the county that an applicant may reside in, all of which have no impact on ability. So while opponents are pointing fingers at students deemed under qualified, economic privilege is continuously taken into account for admission. 

In the midst of this conversation — which positions the hardworking white student against the under performing student of color — there has been little discussion about how Asian-American students are affected.

While opponents of affirmative action argue that factoring race into admission decisions leads to Asian American students being discriminated against, these very same opponents never question what factors guide the admission of white students. . Disregarding a student because of test scores, the inability to attend certain summer research programs or failure to travel abroad — factors which largely demonstrate economic ability — and then evaluate their admission based on "race" reveals how deeply flawed the admissions landscape is.

The fix for Asian American students, who sadly are being unfairly denied admission, is to not punish the small percentage of Hispanic and Black students who apply and go on to attend these selective universities, but rather to assess why these students are being denied in the first place. Admissions counselors, through denying qualified Asian-American students, continue to prove that if affirmative action were eradicated, students of color would not be admitted , regardless of the credentials they possessed.

By dismantling affirmative action, we perpetuate a system where students of color will be forced to prove themselves against students admitted who have family legacy at a particular school even further. While affirmative action is neither the best nor only solution to an unfair admissions procedure, it does provide an opportunity for students to be considered who may have otherwise been denied.

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Yasmeen Chism

Yasmeen is a recent graduate from the UNC-Greensboro who studied African American Studies and Women's and Gender Studies. Her research interests include Black feminist theories and performance studies.

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